Israel Doubles Second Strike Force

August 23, 2006

To Germany’s great credit, Angela Merkel is shipping Israel two more of its excellent Dolphin submarines – doubling the number of Iranian targets Israel can destroy in a second strike.

In the face of Iran’s race to obtain nuclear power, Israel signed a contract with Germany last month to buy two Dolphin-class submarines that will,according to foreign reports, provide superior second-strike nuclear capabilities, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

The submarines will be assembled in Germany and provided with a propulsion system allowing them to remain underwater for far longer than the submarines currently in the Israel Navy’s fleet.

According to sources close to the deal, the submarines will be operational in the near future.

The Israeli second strike capability will be the MidEast’s only barrier to nuclear war if – as seems certain – the world lets the Mullahs get nukes. Assuming they are rational players, that is…

Israel currently has 3 Dolphins, and each probably carries four Popeye cruise missiles – first tested in 2000:

The missiles launched from vessels off Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean are said to have hit a target at a range of about 1,500 kilometers [about 930 statute miles]. Israel is reported to possess a 200kg nuclear warhead, containing 6kg of plutonium, that could be mounted on cruise missiles.

The 200kg warheads are almost certainly thermonuclear – the 100-kiloton thermonuke W76 used on the Trident weighs 164 kg.

Israel currently has 3 Dolphins possibly deployed as follows:

Under a system of rotation, some sources claim that two of the vessels would remain at sea: one in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf, the other in the Mediterranean. A third would remain on standby.

If the missile range really is 1,000 miles, they more likely run silent and deep in the Arabian Sea.

The cruise missiles are fired underwater through large bore torpedo tubes, and each of the 3 existing Dolphins has 4 such tubes. So assuming the sub in port is lost in an Iranian first strike, that’s 8 Iranian targets.

There’s no information on the tube numbers and diameters for the 2 new subs, but it’s likely they’ve been upped from 4. Even if they haven’t, 4 subs on patrol can account for 16 Iranian targets – even the nuttiest Mullah will have to take this seriously.

Schroeder authorized this sale and the subsidies for the purchase, but Angela Merkel had to sign the deal off. The fact that she’s done so does her great credit – according to this report, she has 10 million Muslims to contend with in Germany. At the cost of unpopularity, with this one action she’s done more to stabilize the MidEast than Chirac has in his entire career.

UPDATE August 25

Don’t be deceived by this report:

A deal under which Germany will sell Israel two submarines foresees the vessels being delivered starting in 2010, and they are not being equipped to fire nuclear weapons, an official said Friday.

The 2010 date is reasonable – subs take a while to build. And the Germans have no involvement with adding the Popeye missiles – that’s an Israeli mod to the torpedo system. In the meantime, as a commenter points out, the 2 subs on patrol can launch more than one volley, so Iran still gets crisped.